Hail, Mary!

Annunciation by Antoniazzo da Romano, in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome

This past Sunday, the Gospel lesson from the Revised Common Lectionary was the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) from St Gabriel that she would bear a Son. There is a lot one could say, and many of you no doubt heard much of it said from pulpits two days’ past!

My friend Rick recently posted about this passage, calling it the Gospel according to St Gabriel, showing how the message borne by the angel to the Mother of God is itself the Good News. One of the points made is that Gabriel’s greeting, Chaire! (I don’t have a Greek keyboard installed on this computer) should be “Rejoice!” rather than “Greetings!” as it is in most English Bibles.

Now, Chaire is the perfectly normal way of saying, “Hello!” in ancient Greek. So, if we leave this passage alone, on purely linguistic grounds, there’s no reason to switch from, “Greetings!” to “Rejoice!” Indeed, “Ave, Maria!” means, “Greetings, Mary!”

But it was pointed out, however, that Zephaniah 3:14-15 begins “Rejoice!” — “Rejoice, O daughter of Jerusalem! The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst!” This intertext in its Greek translation begins, indeed, with chaire!

If I had a concordance to the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint, or LXX), I would search for other messianic prophecies that use chaire. But this is good enough, I think.

The point is that Gabriel is being intertextual. He is using the normal word for hello and then giving a prophetic utterance that itself ties into an Old Testament prophecy that uses that same word for hello to mean rejoice. The Annunciation, then, is a moment pregnant with meaning.

I hope we can all take a moment, then, for lectio divina and ponder anew the Gospel according to St Gabriel, wondering to ourselves what sort of greeting this is.

2 thoughts on “Hail, Mary!

  1. Thank you for recalling our thoughts from last-minute shopping here. Absolutely right, and I think the converse is right also — Louis Armstrong was surely right in rhyming ‘friends saying How do you do’ with ‘I love you’. My favourite instance is Matthew 28:9: Καὶ ἰδοὺ Ἰησοῦς ὑπήντησεν αὐταῖς λέγων· χαίρετε. I’ve yet to find a translation which just renders this as ‘Hello!’.

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